The special exhibition exploring the multi-faceted universe of Prada unfortunately ended on the 29th of May, but fortunately I took enough pictures to make you feel like you were there!
Divided into different parts including construction, typologies, origin and others, it was a very informative and enjoyable trip into the history of the house of Prada.
Helen David, Fashion Director at Harrods, said: “We are delighted to work with Italy’s finest fashion house to bring the Prada universe to life.”
Prepare yourself for a really long picture heavy post!
Construction: Collections may begin with ideas, references, and motivations, but they ultimately take form, and the formal component is essential to the Prada process. The physical construction of garments, and the materials from which they are constructed, always informs the design. Many of the techniques employed an ancient and still require long hours of close work, rarefied skill and endless patience. Others are contemporary industrial processes repurposed to produce surprisingly luxurious results. Either way an idea is only as good as its execution. The relative preciousness of a thing often has a direct correlation to the care and effort that goes into making it.
Whitewashed organdy and linen with metal and wooden bead embroidery
Guipure lace dipped in silicone
Mother of pearl embroidery
Latex hard-embroidered on linen
Printed cut-out motif hand embroidered on organza
Typologies: Excessivity – The road from simple shapes to profound concepts is often paved with complex materials – textured, ornamented, and encrusted surfaces that are mesmerising in their opulence. Are they in exquisite taste, bad taste or post-taste? Familiar gestures of excess are deconstructed, and common materials are recast as luxuries, always dissecting the basic formal conundrum: when is too much, not enough?
Typologies: Animality – Dressing is a primitive instinct, and so fashion may prey upon the natural world. Prada’s beastly allusions often take the form of protrusions: a flourish of feathers extending from the back of the neck, a dress made scaly with reptilian pailettes. Animal prints and fur are references and reinvented. For every irresistible python coat is a dress is shaggy faux fur and plush pieces that juxtapose natural hides and candy colours: a sartorial survival-of-the-fittest
2011 – Cape in python leather. Graphic check print dress in silk organza. Inspired by the 1950s, the geometric motif was treated with an Indian ink technique and printed on fabric with traditional photo-engraving.
2011 – Banana print shirt in compact stretch poplin of cotton and elastomer yarns. The pattern was created with Indian ink and printed on fabric with traditional photo-engraving. Frame print skirt in cotton canvas. Compact and heavy, the fabric is typically used for work clothes. The figurative and ornamental motifs of the pattern were reproduced by hand with Indian ink and then printed on fabric with traditional photo-engraving. Small striped fur stole in white fox.
Typologies: Figuration – A print is a blatant act of superficiality. The design floats on the surface, hardly penetrating its textile substrate. It’s all signification, no substance. Prada uses print as an overt form of representation: a game of reference and illusion. Outright deception os often required. At close range, some moirés, pleats, and camouflage reveal themselves to be computer-generated fakes: the accidental turns out to be deliberate.
2004 – Madras print top in compact stretch poplin of cotton and elastomer yarns. The pattern is a blurred plaid printed on fabric with traditional photo-engraving. Toile Milan print skirt in cotton. Slightly iridescent and irregular, the yarn gives the fabric a rough appearance and a compact structure. The colourful souvenir motif evokes the stylised graphic whimsy of the 1950s.
2012 – Vignette print coat in double-sided silk with a satin weave. Soft and shiny, the yarn-dyed fabric has a whimsical 1950s-inspired pattern of cars in a comic book style printed with traditional photo-engraving.
2000 – Heart print shirt in silk crêpe de Chine. The rough, slightly puckered appearance is a deliberate effect of the finishing process. The design was treated with a tinting technique and printed on the fabric with traditional photo-engraving. Lips print skirt in silk crêpe de Chine, also finished to a rough texture. The figurative motif was reinterpreted with aerography and printed on the fabric with traditional photo-engraving.
2008 – Top and skirt in guipure. A macramé technique is used to embroider the fabric with floral and ornamental motifs. The effect is similar to lace but with greater body and dimension. Shirt in cotton poplin. Bonnet in die-cut leather.
Evolution: Ephemera – A bias for experimentation over repetition and fantasy over reality shapes every element of the Prada universe but is particularly apparent in the multifarious communications that are sent back into the world. These materials follow the rhythms of revolution: a typical fashion lookbook is reimagined as a series of surreal collages, a poster conceals as much as it reveals, an invitation invites a second and third look.
Origins – Prada was established by Mario Prada in 1913 in Milan’s prestigious Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping arcade. He gained a reputation for his unerring eye and exquisite taste. He sought out rare and luxurious materials from every corner of the world – fine leather, ivory, solver, tortoise shell– catering to the most discerning customers. His shop was treasure trove of precious objects and artifacts of every description. In 1919, Fratelli Prada became an official supplier to Italy’s royal household and as such earned the right to incorporate the coat of arms and knotted-rope insignia of the House of Savoi into its logo.
2013 – Fur coat in mink with intarsia flowers. Mink skins are characterised by their elastic, resistant leather and short, silky fur, with thick and shiny tips. The use of female minks, as in this coat, makes for a lighter garment.
2000 – Dress embroidered in hand-made sequins. Fur collar in red fox.
2004 – V-neck jumper in pure Peruvian alpaca in 7-gauge knit. Evening skirt in velvet. The piled fabric is a viscose that reverses to silk. Fur coat in broadtail lamb. Smooth and silky to the touch, the shiny fur is embroidered by hand with jade crystals and vintage plastic elements for an ombré effect.
Sea of shoes:
1996/2014 – Jacket and trousers in techno jersey. The knitted fabric is made with the the technical yarns typical of athletic apparel. Small striped fur stole in white fox.
Typologies: Modernity – What is modernity if not a radical break from tradition? But ‘modern’ itself –with all its implied pristine minimalism– has acquired a tinge of the antique and the sheen of history. How can reduction be made exquisite? For Prada, it’s a matter of maintaining tension between modernity and history, high and low, profundity and cliché. To be modern is to boldly exist outside of any particular moment while acknowledging the impossibility of such a feat.1991 – Top in latex, trousers in heavy linen. Made with flamed linen yarns in a compact weave, the rustic fabric is embroidered by hand with acrylic elements. Stole in silk faille. The yarn-dyed fabric is characterised by flat ribbing in the direction of the weave.
2010 – Dress in acrylic drops attached by hand with metal rings. Belt of superimposed set crystals which create a wave pattern.
The archival collection revealed the various obsessions of one of the most successful and influential brands in the world and its involvement with not only fashion, but cinema and architecture.
Simply amazing, my friend and I were left in awe especially with some of the older pieces. What was also great was the way clothes and accessories from different collections were combined in the same outfits and created a unification between Prada’s history.
Photo credit: personal